Tuesday, February 14, 2012

NFL Offseason Needs: Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions

by John Huffstetler

Green Bay Packers

Key Free Agents: QB Matt Flynn, RB Ryan Grant, TE Jermichael Finley, LB Erik Walden, CB Jarrett Bush


Defensive End

Their defensive line doesn't necessarily need to generate a pass rush, but sack totals for the Packers d-line last season were anemic. Beyond only producing 6 sacks as a unit, the defense as a whole earned only 29 sacks as a team (27th in the league), meaning the d-line didn't absorb enough attention from opposing offensive lines to free up their talented linebackers. The entire 3-4 defense hinges on the ability of the defensive line to draw attention, and, other than Raji, their line failed to do so. This is the one true weakness on this entire squad and they need to address this position through the draft and free agency.

Running Back

Ryan Grant (pictured to the right) could leave via free agency, and even if he returns, Green Bay could use a better option at running back. Grant and Starks are both serviceable receivers and average rushers, but there are several players in the draft in the first 4 rounds with the potential to immediately upgrade the position. Mid-round talents like LaMichael James, Isiah Pead, Ronnie Hillman, and Cyrus Gray would all be strong fits for the Packers pass-first system. They would also add a big play element to the running back position that doesn't exist in Green Bay at this time.

Continue to Stock-Pile Talent

At most positions, the Packers are both deep and talented. As a 15-1 squad, other teams will look to poach their talent over the next few years at exorbitant salaries. BJ Raji, Clay Matthews, Greg Jennings, Nick Collins, and Sam Shields will all become free agents during the 2013 and 2014 off-seasons, and all of these players should demand large contracts in free agency. In order to stay dominant, the Packers need to continue to develop talent at every position. The defensive backfield in particular would become vulnerable in a few seasons with Charles Woodson's inevitable retirement and the potential loss of Collins and Shields. Good teams fill their needs; great teams fill their needs a few years in advance.

Detroit Lions

Key Free Agents: WR/KR/PR Stefan Logan, K Jason Hanson, OT Jeff Backus, OT Corey Hilliard (Restricted), DE Cliff Avril, LB Bobby Carpenter, LB DeAndre Levy (Restricted), LB Stephen Tulloch, CB Eric Wright, S Chris Harris


Upgrade the speed at the LB position

3 key contributors at LB are free agents this off-season and the Lions could stand to lose two of them. While the defensive line play was outstanding last year at pressuring the QB, the LB corps repeatedly failed in coverage, contributing to the Lions 22nd ranked pass defense. Since the Lions have an impressive d-line, they should look to acquire more speed at the LB position and obtain players that can play side-to-side and cover slot receivers at times. Tulloch (shown to the right) and Carpenter are good players, but they are more run-stopping LB's, which Detroit doesn't exactly need. The Lions should resign DeAndre Levy and look to add a few faster options to compliment him and Justin Durant.

Solid Cover Corner to Start Opposite Chris Houston

Chris Houston is a solid NFL CB, but he's a gambler. During the course of the season, he will make terrific plays and he will get burned badly when he incorrectly attempts to read a pattern. Because of his gambling philosophy, he would be better suited as a #2 corner. Drafting a corner who is more solid in his cover skills to eventually fill the role of top corner would dramatically help the Lions inconsistent pass defense. Starting CB Eric Wright did not have a great season, and he is also a free agent this off-season. Whether he leaves or returns, the position needs to be stronger.

Offensive Tackle

The O-line performed well this past season. The Lions passing game racked up significant yardage, and despite losing their top two RB's to injury, the team still managed to average a respectable 4.3 yards/carry. The interior line is clearly set with Raiola, Peterman, and Sims returning as starters; however, the tackle positions both remain a question mark. Jeff Backus (Pictured right) is 34 years old and currently an unrestricted free agent, and primary backup Corey Hilliard is a restricted free agent as well. Although immensely talented, Gosder Cherilus has failed to reach his expected potential since his selection in the 2008 draft. Even if Backus returns, the Lions could use a tackle to groom to replace him in a year or two. With the addition of a strong tackle and the return of Best and Leshoure from injury at RB, the Lions offense would improve dramatically.

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Feel free to email me at jhuffmm@yahoo.com

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